News Roundup: Phúc Visits Trump, Việt Nam at U20 World Cup

Published June 5, 2017 in Episode 73

One Vietnamese Central Committee member gets ousted, while another top leader goes to DC. Catch up with the news that’s got Vietnamese people abuzz.

1. Phúc and Trump Summit at the White House

On May 31, the White House welcomed Việt Nam’s Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc - the first leader from Southeast Asia to visit America’s new president. Trump praised Phúc for doing a “spectacular job” in Việt Nam, but did not mention human rights, a topic the Obama administration commonly brought into conversations surrounding US-Việt Nam relations. Last year, Trump made an executive decision to pull out of TPP - the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal which would greatly benefit Việt Nam. In an interview with Bloomberg television, Phúc expressed that he is not discouraged to push for new trade deals:

“After the U.S. withdrew from the TPP, Vietnam and the U.S. have restarted the trade and investment framework agreement - to define mechanism to maintain dialogs of common interest on commercial and trade matters. We respect president Trump’s decision which regards to trade and we want to make sure that we can convince him that this is a mutually beneficial relationship for both sides, and the American consumers prefer the products of Vietnam exports.”

The White House Administration has said that President Trump would, in turn, come to Đà Nẵng to attend the APEC Summit - the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in November. The reciprocity yields hope for continued improvement of bilateral ties between Việt Nam and the U.S.


2. Đinh La Thăng: You are fired!


For the first time in two decades, a politburo member has been fired from the Communist Party’s Central Committee. 90 percent of the committee members voted out Đinh La Thăng, the head of the Ministry of Transportation, citing financial mismanagement. In his previous position as the chairman of PetroVietnam, the national oil and gas group, taxpayer money to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars mysteriously disappeared, VietnamNet reports. Thăng also lost his title as the mayor of Hồ Chí Minh City following his termination from the Central Committee. The Communist Party's General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng said Thăng’s case is a lesson for many.

In an interview with the BBC‘s Vietnamese service, economist Nguyễn Chí Dũng says the move is strategic for the general secretary:

“The first thing Nguyễn Phú Trọng was able to achieve in ousting Đinh La Thăng from the politburo, the most important thing -- now, I'm being sarcastic -- is winning back Sài Gòn. And now, he’ll be able to bring his own people in. Đinh La Thăng was not one of Trọng’s people.”

Last year former prime minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng was also forced to retire after a political clash with Trọng.

Many citizens question why Thăng was only fired from his position but not prosecuted.


3. Việt Nam’s Youth World Cup dreams end at game number 3

2,000 Vietnamese fans made a trip to Korea to cheer on their national football team’s first time at the WorldCup U20, formerly known as the FIFA World Youth Championship, for male players under the age of 20. Dreams of victory ended at the third game, when the team lost 0-2 to Honduras. Former coach of the national football team Mai Đức Chung said despite the loss, he was very proud of the team:

“We are very happy and would like to commend our athletes. Even though we didn’t make it in, we lost, we need to keep our heads up because we are the representatives of Southeast Asia.”


4. Hà Nội may be working with hackers to attack foreign companies


A cybersecurity report appears to link the Vietnamese government to recent cyber attacks targeted at multinational companies operating in Việt Nam, as well as activists, international organizations and foreign governments.

FireEye, a U.S. cybersecurity company, published a report that identifies the hacker group as APT 32. APT stands for Advanced Persistent Threat.

APT32 spreads malicious attachments via phishing emails to target groups. For example: one of the found attachments was an exe file titled “Plans to crackdown on protesters at the Embassy of Việt Nam," which targeted Vietnamese people throughout Southeast Asia.

According to CNBC, Việt Nam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied the contents of the report - saying its “ungrounded”.

But FireEye was not the first to have reported of government meddling with hackers. In 2010 Google engineers confirmed findings of malware that spies on and attacks voices of dissent.

(Revisit Loa's Look Inside Việt Nam's Digital Threats in Episode 24!)


5. Authorities arrest another anti-Formosa activist, call for the arrest of two others

On May 15, environmental activist Hoàng Đức Bình was kidnapped by plainclothes police while traveling in Central Việt Nam. While he was held incommunicado, local news announced that he was being charged under article 257: “opposing officers on duty”and article 258: “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State.”

Hoàng Đức Bình at one of the environmental protests in Central Việt Nam

Hoàng Đức Bình at one of the environmental protests in Central Việt Nam

Meanwhile, there are warrants out for the arrests of activists Thái Văn Dung and Bạch Hồng Quyền, who have organized many fish protests in Central Việt Nam, and are now currently in hiding.